Type Here to Get Search Results !

Translate

Routes: break flight scare, unruly flier crackdown, Aha! At Reno-Tahoe and more - SF Gate

Passengers wait in line at the American Airlines check-in counters at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on April 24, 2021. 

In the latest travel news, last weekend’s big flight cancellation debacle at American is stirring fears of a potential holiday travel meltdown; the Federal Aviation Administration sends dozens of unruly flier cases to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution; the new Reno-Tahoe airline Aha! adds more routes; Alaska Airlines plans a new transcontinental route in 2022; U.S. secures Russia overflight rights for U.S. carriers; partnership news from SkyTeam/ITA, JetBlue/Icelandair and Alaska/British Airways; international route developments at Vietnam Airlines, Air France, French Bee, Hawaiian, Finnair, La Compagnie and Aer Lingus; Alaska Airlines gets the plastic off its planes; United MileagePlus replaces Hertz's partnership with Avis Budget Group; and Chicago O’Hare’s inter-terminal airport trains are running again after a three-year delay.  

Those massive cancellations by American Airlines last weekend — more than 2,000 flights scrapped from Friday through Monday — were just the latest in an ongoing series of operational disasters at American, Southwest and Spirit Airlines in recent months. The heavy cancellations have been blamed mainly on weather events at key airports and a shortage of employees who could step in to get the schedules back on track. And with the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays expected to attract the highest numbers of passengers since the pandemic started, there are growing concerns that a similar debacle could disrupt the plans of thousands of travelers.

Major media outlets are issuing scary warnings to consumers about the dire possibilities. A CNN story this week was headlined, “Why flying is so bad and about to get worse.” The Wall Street Journal’s treatment carried the banner “Canceled flights and crowded airports: Brace yourself for holiday travel.” And the headline in the Financial Times was “Spate of U.S. flight cancellations prompts fears of holiday meltdown.” Part of the problem is the airlines’ own fault as they tried to meet rising consumer demand by expanding their schedules with more flights than they could reasonably handle, especially if something went wrong — like a major storm. When an airline doesn’t have the flexibility to call up its reserves — both aircraft and crews — flight cancellations can quickly cascade through its system. Aircraft and flight crews are left out of position as the day progresses, creating even more scratched flights downstream. Some carriers are scrambling to put furloughed workers back on duty and to hire new employees, but training requirements take time.

And there are other issues straining the system. Some disgruntled airline unions — mainly pilots and flight attendants — are complaining about being overworked during the industry’s rapid revival. And pilots, especially at American and Southwest, have been critical of new COVID-19 vaccination mandates. United has been sued by a group of employees challenging the company’s vaccine requirement. Southwest’s pilots filed a similar action that was recently rejected by a federal judge in Texas. And American’s pilot union, the Allied Pilots Association, last month warned that the airline could find itself short of flight deck crews if it tries to crack down on requiring COVID-19 vaccines. The White House this week set a deadline of Jan. 4 for all government contractors and all private companies with more than 100 employees to get all their workers vaccinated.

Passengers sit as they wait for their flight at O'Hare airport in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. More than 700 flights canceled as blizzard warning takes effect in Chicago.

Passengers sit as they wait for their flight at O'Hare airport in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. More than 700 flights canceled as blizzard warning takes effect in Chicago.

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

For passengers, a canceled flight during the holiday season could be a trip-ending event, since planes will be mostly full and getting rebooked on another departure could take days. United CEO Scott Kirby, perhaps trying to take advantage of the warnings about holiday flights, this week sent a message to customers telling them they can “book with confidence on United this holiday season.” He said the airline “gradually added flights over time” during the recovery instead of cramming new departures into a bloated schedule and made a deal with its pilots to keep them “employed and ready to fly” when needed. Kirby also said United “successfully completed our vaccine requirements early, before there was a government directive.”

For months, U.S. airlines and their employee groups have been pressuring the federal government to take stronger action against the skyrocketing number of unruly passengers who disrupt flights, attack flight crew, and sometimes cause unscheduled landings. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has imposed fines on scores of miscreants since it imposed a zero-tolerance policy in January, but now it is cranking up the potential sanctions for bad in-flight behavior. The FAA said this week it has forwarded 37 cases of the most serious misconduct to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution in federal courts. Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International, applauded the move, calling DOJ prosecution “the most effective way to deter bad actors and put a stop to the spike in disruptive passengers.” She also called for the creation of “a centralized list of violators who will be denied the freedom of flight on all airlines.” Some U.S. carriers have suggested sharing their own internal no-fly lists, but this week Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on CNN that the creation of a federal no-fly list for unruly passengers “should be on the table.”

Aha!, the oddly named new regional airline based at Reno-Tahoe Airport, started flying last month, and it’s already adding more routes. Created as a new iteration of the regional carrier ExpressJet, it operates 50-seat ERJ145s from Reno-Tahoe to Fresno, Eureka/Arcata, Ontario and Bakersfield, California; Redmond/Bend, Eugene/Springfield and Medford/Ashland, Oregon; and Pasco/Tri-Cities, Washington, with three flights a week in each market. Aha!’s newly revealed expansion plans include service to Spokane, Washington, beginning Dec. 15, and to Palm Springs starting Jan. 3, also with three weekly flights on each route.

A Boeing 737 Max-9, built for Alaska Airlines, undergoes testing as it flies past the Boeing factory in Everett, Washington, on March 23, 2020. 

A Boeing 737 Max-9, built for Alaska Airlines, undergoes testing as it flies past the Boeing factory in Everett, Washington, on March 23, 2020. 

Mike Siegel/TNS

In other domestic route news, Alaska Airlines announced it will introduce a new transcontinental route next year, launching daily flights between its Seattle hub and Miami on June 16. JetBlue added San Antonio, Texas, to its route map this week, starting new service from both Boston and New York JFK. United Airlines is ending its United Express service to three smaller airports — Twin Falls, Idaho, effective Nov. 31, and Pierre and Watertown, South Dakota, as of Jan. 3. 

What’s the most direct air route between the West Coast and India? It’s over the North Pole and then across Russia. Airlines like United — which plans to launch San Francisco-Bangalore flights in May — got a break last week when the Russian government gave a green light to overflight rights for U.S. carriers. U.S. airlines had been lobbying the State Department to press the issue with the Russians, and State said Russia had approved their applications, although it didn’t say how many overflights would be allowed. “The Department of State continues to engage with the relevant Russian authorities to secure expanded air service opportunities for U.S. carriers,” a State Department spokesperson said.

There’s plenty of news this week about international airline partnerships. Let’s start with Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA), the new Italian carrier that replaced defunct Alitalia in mid-October. The Delta/Air France/KLM SkyTeam alliance announced that ITA has officially joined the group, filling the spot left open by Alitalia. It said the Italian carrier is “working closely with SkyTeam and its members to roll out SkyTeam-branded benefits that customers enjoy across the alliance, including priority airport services.” ITA has an initial fleet of 52 aircraft and started service with flights to 35 domestic and international destinations, mostly within Europe. It launched its first intercontinental route this week, from Rome Fiumicino to New York JFK with an Airbus A330, with plans to add service from Rome to Boston, Miami, Washington Dulles and Los Angeles next year and to San Francisco and Chicago in 2023. 

Meanwhile, JetBlue announced an expansion of its code-sharing partnership with Icelandair, which currently has JetBlue’s code on the latter’s flights to Reykjavik from New York JFK, Boston and Newark. With the expansion, the JetBlue code goes onto Icelandair flights beyond Reykjavik to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Helsinki, Manchester, Oslo and Stockholm, with plans to add more European routes in the months ahead. “Customers traveling on connecting flights between Icelandair and JetBlue will enjoy both combined ticketing and baggage transfers. Additionally, when customers fly Icelandair across the Atlantic, they can stop over in Iceland at no additional cost, selecting a stopover duration of one to seven days,” JetBlue said. In addition, JetBlue’s TrueBlue loyalty program members will soon be able to redeem points for Icelandair flights.

Finally, Alaska Airlines said it is expanding its code-share relationship with British Airways, a member of American Airlines’ Oneworld alliance that Alaska joined earlier this year. “This expansion includes 16 additional markets, connecting Alaska's network beyond Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles to British Airways' nonstop service from London Heathrow,” Alaska said. The Seattle-based carrier noted that since it joined Oneworld on March 31, the number of code-share routes in its network has increased by 188, or 39%. That includes new code-share partnerships with Iberia Airlines and Qatar Airways, and expanded code shares with American, BA, Cathay Pacific and Finnair.

Which Vietnamese airline will be the first to launch U.S. service? For a while it looked like it would be Bamboo Airways, which had hoped to start flying here by this fall but was delayed by government red tape. So now Vietnam Airlines seems to have the edge. That carrier just got the go-ahead from the U.S. Transportation Department and now is awaiting an operating permit from the Federal Aviation Administration. Vietnam Airlines said it expects to begin scheduled nonstop service from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to San Francisco by the end of November, although it hasn’t yet said what kind of aircraft it will use or what its initial schedule might look like. 

Air France Airbus on final approach for landing at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport during a misty weather morning. 

Air France Airbus on final approach for landing at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport during a misty weather morning. 

NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

With the reopening of the U.S. to vaccinated foreign travelers starting Nov. 8., Air France just announced a substantial expansion of trans-Atlantic capacity this winter. From now through the end of March, the carrier said, it will gradually expand its U.S. schedule to 90% of what it was in 2019; this past summer, it was just 50%. That will boost Air France’s New York-Paris schedule from three flights a day to five, Los Angeles from 12 a week to 17, and Miami from seven a week to 12. The airline also serves San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago and Houston. On Dec. 6, Air France will revive Seattle-Paris service with three flights a week. And on Nov. 11, it will give West Coasters another option to get to French Polynesia, resuming Paris-Papeete, Tahiti, service via a stop in Los Angeles with three weekly flights. 

Speaking of Tahiti, the small carrier French Bee this week restarted its Paris Orly-San Francisco-Papeete routing, which had been shifted to a stop in Vancouver instead of SFO when the U.S. was shut down. The SFO-Tahiti flights depart San Francisco on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, using an Airbus A350.

In other international route news, Hawaiian Airlines said it will resume Honolulu-Sydney service twice a week starting Dec. 13 as Australia begins to open up overseas travel to its citizens. Finnair this week started flying to Los Angeles International — not from Helsinki, but from Stockholm, using an A350-900 for three flights a week. La Compagnie, the French all-business-class airline, is planning a Dec. 4 start for service from Newark to Tel Aviv, operating via a 90-minute stop at Paris Orly. But its Newark-Milan flights, which were due to start this month, have been pushed back to April 2022. Aer Lingus will supplement its Dublin routes next year with trans-Atlantic service out of Shannon Airport. The carrier is due to begin daily Shannon-Boston service March 10 and daily Shannon-New York JFK service March 27. Both routes will use single-aisle A321neo aircraft.

Plastic water bottles and cups served in-flight are the latest targets in Alaska Airlines’ efforts to go green. The airline this week said that in-flight water service is “the most significant contributor of onboard plastic waste,” so it is getting rid of plastic bottles and cups, replacing them with plant-based boxed water cartons and paper cups. According to Alaska, this change will eliminate 1.8 million pounds of single-use plastics from its aircraft in the next year — “equivalent to the weight of 18 Boeing 737s.” The airline started offering boxed water earlier this year in first class cabins and on Horizon Air flights, and surveys indicated that customers preferred the boxed product over plastic bottles by a two-to-one margin.

Rental vehicles are parked outside a closed Hertz car rental office Saturday, May 23, 2020, in south Denver. 

Rental vehicles are parked outside a closed Hertz car rental office Saturday, May 23, 2020, in south Denver. 

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

United Airlines’ longstanding partnership with Hertz is over, and a new one with Avis Budget Group started this week, according to ThePointsGuy.com. The new deal means that United’s MileagePlus members will earn 500 miles for each Avis rental, while elite-level members and United Chase cardholders will earn bonus miles — from 750 to 1,250 total miles per rental. The airline is also offering discounted MileagePlus rates for Avis and Budget rentals through cars.united.com/avisbudget. In the future, the new partnership will be enhanced by adding the ability to pay for Avis rentals with United miles, and the chance for MileagePlus elites and United Chase cardholders to get equivalent matching status with Avis and Budget. 

At Chicago O’Hare, the inter-terminal people-mover trains finally started running again this week, connecting Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 5, along with the airport’s multi-modal rental car facility, Economy Parking Lot F and connections to Pace buses and Metra trains. The people-mover, officially called the Airport Transit System (ATS), had been completely shut down since January of 2019, with travelers hauled around the airport by shuttle buses instead as work on ATS system expansion and improvements continued. According to the Chicago Tribune, the project is three years behind schedule, as it started late and kept facing delays. “The project was supposed to be substantially complete by December 2018, and service interruptions were supposed to be kept ‘to an absolute minimum’ during construction,” the Tribune reported. “The project soon devolved into delays, finger-pointing and contract disputes between the city and Parsons Construction Group, the main contractor on the project.”

More Travel News




Post a Comment

0 Comments
* Please Don't Spam Here. All the Comments are Reviewed by Admin.